Stuart Macaulay-Lane is a Financial Consultant at Legal And General. When we caught up with him, he had just completed his qualification and settled into his brand new role. Here he talks about setting aside time on Sunday afternoons to complete his coursework with his family's support and a favourite management technique: the Elephant Method.
Hello! Please would you introduce yourself?
Hi, my name is Stuart Macauley-Lane, I am a Financial Consultant at Legal And General, but I was a Lead Handler when I started my qualification. I’ve taken a step up into my new role.
Previously, I would handle incoming calls from customers and arrange appointments for them to discuss their life insurance, income protection and that sort of thing. Now, that’s my job! I talk to our customers about their personal circumstances and their needs. It is sensitive and GDPR is involved in everything I do on a day-to-day basis.
I was taking the ILM Level 3, but I’ve completed it now! I worked with Sue Hampson (training advisor at TSW Training).
The apprenticeship was good. I found it hard work and there is a lot to do outside of your day-to-role. You must bear it in mind before you start, you’re told, but you don’t know until you’re doing it. It’s so worth it in the end if you put the work in.
It took me two years to complete. It’s a huge commitment especially as there is a lot of learning involved with this job too, that took its toll and I had to find a balance between the two.
Did the apprenticeship assist as you changed roles?
Yes, it did, regarding time management and preparation skills which I’m using in my new role.
There are things I have learnt from doing the ILM, as opposed to going straight into the job with no previous experience. It gave me the confidence to realise I could do more than one thing at a time.
I always limited myself previously, but I did two really big things at once and came out the other side – it's such a confidence booster.
Are you enjoying the apprenticeship?
Yes, I enjoyed it. There are days when it’s a struggle, but you muddle through. Susan was really good and there on-hand whenever I need anything. She’s got a way of getting you where you want to be which is great.
Why did you decide to take on an apprenticeship?
I wanted to move up from my role, and in my department, the advisor roles never really came up, so the main reason why I moved was to try and get one.
I was there for two or three years, and nothing had happened. I spoke to my manager and said: “I want to do something different” so they made me a team leader in the Lead Handlers team and then I knew wanted to move into the managers side of things.
When this apprenticeship came up and my manager encouraged me to look into it, and that’s how I ended up starting the qualification really.
It was in your plan, and you were just figuring out the path?
It sounds like your manager is very supportive...
Yes! Steve Wright was my manager, but he’s actually just retired before I finished so he didn’t get to see the whole thing through, but the manager who took over, Richard, was great and very supportive. And even the boss above that was really encouraging and said it was a good idea to go for the qualification.
How do you feel now you’ve finished? Do you feel like you’re at a loose end and need to do more?
I’m taking a second now just to find myself again and think about what I’m going to do next. But I think I will come back and do some additional learning, but I’m so new in this job I need to find my feet and see where it takes me. I want to give my all to this job, start on the front foot.
Tell us more about: “I need to find myself again”
It’s tiring work mentally because you’re juggling your home life and work life, and do this qualification as well, I tried to find the right balance more than anything else.
Did you have lots of support from home?
I did yes! My wife is a teacher which is always helpful, so I had my wife on the one side and Susan on the other always badgering me about doing my homework. When my wife was marking books, I would do my coursework, we’d set aside an hour on Sunday afternoon to work together.
Let’s talk about your Training Advisor, Sue...
She was always available. If I had any issues, I would ask her for an extra meeting, and she would book me in. Because it was COVID times, everything was via Teams. I met Sue a couple of times towards the end during intensive sessions at TSW and she would give me support one-to-one to get things over the finish line. But there were always emails and conversations backwards and forwards if I had any queries.
I also attended interactive sessions and I joined other groups Sue ran outside of L&G and that was great as well. It was so enjoyable looking at how other people work and how it affected their businesses. That was a real eye opener.
That’s fantastic, so you were able to knowledge share between businesses?
Yes, it was brilliant.
Did Sue listen to your needs to help you learn?
I think Sue is good at breaking things down. There were times when I was struggling with sections, and she would really break it down and find a way of making me understand.
She tailored her approach to me. One thing you learn in the course is that there is no set way of getting people to learn things, so from a manger’s perspective, if you have a team of five people, they are all going to respond in different ways.
She was good at finding the way that worked best for me to help me achieve the end of goal of qualifying.
What technique did you enjoy learning, or what technique has been the most useful in your environment?
The elephant method, breaking everything down into tiny pieces. How do you eat an elephant? You can’t eat it in one go, you’ve got to take it bit by bit.
Do you feel like part of a community when you’re learning? What’s that like?
Not so much because our group was so small, but I found it more when I joined the other the other sessions because there was a lot more interaction between the people and more support that way.
When it’s a small group, there is more chance of people not attending because we have individual needs with our own jobs, but Sue did so well to get us all through.
The support from Sue was the main thing, I needed it and I leaned on her.
It’s obvious that you have that learning spirit within you! Do you think learning makes you happy?
It’s always good to test yourself, isn’t it? See what you can achieve! It’s always easier to do nothing, let’s be honest, so pushing yourself it’s harder to get it going but once you have it's worth it.
Do you encourage people around you to pick up new skills too?
Yes. I’ve preached the virtues of doing the course to my team already. It's something everyone should investigate doing.
Do you think taking an apprenticeship has changed your life? In what way?
It’s changed my outlook. It gives me a lot more confidence in what I can achieve as a person, it’s made a big difference to me. Achieving something has been the best thing that’s happened.
What advice would you give to people thinking of taking up an apprenticeship?
Do it! But make sure you can make the commitment time wise because it does take a few hours a week easily with some of the work you have to do. And be organised!
My problem was I’d put things off towards the end, do it earlier and break it up to half an hour a night and work on one section per evening, it would make all the difference.
Exactly, and that’s what I was doing at the beginning – Sue soon put a stop to that!
What are your career aspirations? Where will we see you in 10 years?
In a management role of some sort, putting my qualification to good use. It’s one of these places where the roles don’t come up very often but it’s a good place to work. I want to stay here if I can.